Reliable Security Information

Defending the Indefensible

It's impossible to defend a process in which a 61-year old man with a urostomy is poked and felt for PETN-underwear explosive until his urine bag comes loose and soaks him. No amount of explanation about how al Qaeda likes to use PETN, or apologies from the boss, cut the mustard.

But it should not come as a surprise that the mainstream media, after enjoying publicizing all the bad stories about the TSA and airport security misadventures now feels compelled to run stories and polls explaining how the agency is just doing its job, its workers are in a bad position, and many Americans are fine with beating treated like crap. As long as they've been told it's for the good of the country and everyone else, too.

The latter view is not particularly surprising.

Here's a cite from the Associated Press illustrating the view:

"Whatever keeps the country safe, I just don't have a problem with," Leah Martin, 50, of Houston, said as she waited Monday to go through security at the Atlanta airport.

At New York's LaGuardia Airport early Tuesday, Jeannine St. Amand got a pat-down in front of her husband and two children. The 45-year-old from Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada, figured she got one because the underwire of her bra tripped the metal detector.

"It's hard to remember all the restrictions. Next time, I'll wear a different bra," she said.

Probably entirely heartfelt and true.

DD doesn't think it would be hard at all to find people who, after years of being seared by stories about the big bad al Qaeda men -- the shoe and the underwear bombers, will believe whatever you tell them when it comes to national security necessity.

But what of the annoying fact that the last two famous failed incidents -- the underwear bomber's smoking parts and the UPS/Fed-Ex transported printer bombs? They did not involve going through TSA or the multiple buzzing and prodding layers of US security.

Illogically, it's just of no relevance in such on-the-spot interviews, fresh news stories and polls. However, I bet a polling or news agency could make it so just by making the questions less leading and more complex in their recitation of recent history as reference point.

In any case, today the Los Angeles Times hardcopy edition ran with a frontpage story entitled "Pat-down aimed at finding explosive."

It's here. (The on-line headline is not the same as the delivered edition, a common happenstance with the Los Angeles newspaper.)

It deserves a special bit of scorn for the tortured argument it tries to make. Namely, that all the odious pat-downs domestically are justified in the search for PETN-explosives. Using the examples of the underwear bomber -- now the most psychologically effective terrorist ever, and the recent UPS/Fed-Ex shipped toner cartridge bombs (that didn't explode.)

Both of these cases did not involve going through TSA procedures. The UPS/Fed-Ex bombs were not 'patted-down' in Yemen when they were blithely sent on their way.

The Times, in an attempt to illustrate the point it could not make, ran a huge picture of al Qaeda's toner bomb. It was made for only $4,200!

To review. Here's a video of the toner bomb plot set to music:

Where would randomly badgering and patting down older Americans and young children have helped here?

One moment from cable television earlier this week is of special note.

MSNB's Chris Matthews took time out to bully a woman from EPIC, Ginger McCall, on the matter of airport security, a topic in which he's simply a daddy-knows-best kind of guy. Daddy -- in this case -- being the national security infrastructure.

Crooks & Liars captured it here:

What set Matthews off was the lady's mentioning of former Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff's lobbying efforts for Rapiscan.

Matthews accused his guest of slandering Chertoff, of accusing the latter of corruption, a development he darkly intimated would have consequences.

It was a despicable moment and, naturally, ended the interview.

The Washington Post covered Chertoff's connection to Rapiscan early last year. And even after adding a "clarification" to the story, mostly aimed at its original title, it cannot be argued that Chertoff has not become part of the conflict-of-interest revolving door that exists in Washington, one in which people in positions of oversight immediately go to work for the businesses they were formerly supposed to be overseeing.

In other words, McCall had a very legitimate point. And it infuriated Matthews.

Anyway, the US model of counter-terror, as most people experience it, is stubbornly reactive. And that has to do with a number of reasons, one of which is tightly bound up with money and opportunity.

Intelligence on terrorism is hard.

However, reactive measures -- which includes open solicitation for devices and procedures from the national security industry, is not.

There's a widespread belief, impossible to dislodge, that devices -- or the next one down the road -- will be silver bullets. Or at least, always better -- when they really just turn out to be ... more.

And this is coupled with a supporting cast, people in businesses who sit around imagining what terrorists could do if they had all US resources, and using their concocted tests and scenarios as pitches and sales tools.

So corporate natsec businesses really like the way things work now.

And the people who work in government in homeland security, counter-terrorism, policy and oversight in these areas, are regularly recruited and poached away by lucrative offers in the industry. Or the implication and recognition that such positions await them once they leave government service.

This is the same revolving door which you see everywhere else in American government overtaken by corporate capture.

"The TSA's plan to spend hundreds of millions of dollars deploying more than 1,000 [pornoscanners] by the end of 2011 'is a syndrome of having no budget limits and maybe aggressive salesmanship'" one expert from something called the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told the Los Angeles Times.

Wow, dudes! That's really deep.

This post appeared in earlier editions at Dick Destiny blog.

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